While sipping my coffee Sunday morning I happened across one of the doyens of NY Times political opinion, Thomas Friedman, turning his attention to the coming crisis in elder care. It is thrilling to see such attention lavished on an issue near to our hearts, but also fascinating to momentarily see our field through someone else’s eyes. So how do our nation’s pundits and policymakers perceive the challenges of long term care?
Mr. Friedman provocatively frames his discussion as a question of national priorities: caring for our own elders versus maintaining our military presence around the world. He argues that several “trend lines” including the aging population, rise in prevalence of dementia, and reduced savings of retiring seniors will soon combine to present the US with a stark choice: “between nursing homes in America and nursery schools in Afghanistan”. The article is a sobering, realistic call for attention to a topic largely left out of the health insurance reform debates.
Yet, as is typical for his writing, Mr. Friedman offers a ray of light after describing the depth of the coming darkness. His prescription for an elegant, socio-technological fix:
Add up all these trend lines and you can see why, over the next decade, we must get more consistent economic growth as a society and, also, adds Daroff, come up with more policy and technology innovations that allow us to provide a lot more elder care, in particular aging at home, for a lot less money. That will require breakthroughs like remote diagnosis equipment in every home that can track a patient’s weight, blood sugar or lung capacity and dispatch it to a hospital, or clothing with sensors woven into the fabric that will be able track all physical indicators around the clock.
My fellow GeriPal readers, what do you think of this prescription? Is the iMedicalization of our elders with wearable monitors transmitting minute-by-minute status reports to the hospital a solution for keeping them affordably at home? If you could re-write the end of this article, what solutions would you suggest to our nation’s policymakers? What should they know about the challenges of elder and long-term care? Or should the NIA indeed embark on a crash program to develop remote-sensing incontinence briefs?[Photo: The latest in wearable medical technology for seniors, via Wikimedia Commons]
By: John Newman